If you’re in customer service, you’re likely to run into angry/frustrated customers who are facing a difficult time with your product or service. In these situations, you should know how to apologize to a customer properly. From the tone of your apology to how you write an apology statement, it shows the customer that you genuinely understand their position and are actively working towards fixing their issue.
Some customer service teams rely on email templates for drafting apology letters. While this makes your agent’s life easier, this scripted approach can backfire if it lacks empathy and concern. Not only do you face the risk of letting customers go, but you also run the risk of influencing other prospects if negative feedback finds its way to them.
So, how do you apologize without hurting a customer’s feelings? What should you avoid while apologizing to customers? Read this article to learn how to craft a sincere apology when you make a mistake or fail to deliver a good customer experience.
7 tips on how to apologize to a customer
1. Take full responsibility
Let’s consider a SaaS company that lets businesses embed payment forms on their website. They have partnerships with payment gateways to process online transactions in the backend. However, one of their payment gateways faces technical issues and stops working all of a sudden.
Immediately, they start receiving customer complaints. In an era of social media, upset customers tend to share online reviews about their negative experiences and vent their frustration, seeking answers and immediate action.
Here’s the apology letter they send out to all affected customers.
Such an apology may hamper customer relationships because it puts the entire blame on the payment gateway provider. Instead, here’s how their customer support team could improve their apology.
You can see how the above response addresses the grievance in an empathetic way. It also perfectly illustrates the ingredients required in crafting a to-the-point and well-articulated apology that will reassure customers that their problem is being taken seriously.
2. Get a complete context of the problem
When a customer is explaining their problem to you, ensure you have a complete understanding of what has gone wrong. If you have a helpdesk, you may want to refer to historical data or ask the right questions to get context before offering help. The last thing you’ll want to do is annoy your customers even more by sharing a solution without fully grasping their problem.
Here are a few more phrases to connect with your customer and dive deeper into their problem.
- “Am I understanding your problem correctly?”
- “Please let me know if I’m getting it right.”
- “Could you give me more context on how you use this feature for your business?”
We would also recommend you document this process for future reference, including the customer name, the issue details, the date, the agent handling it, and the time taken for resolution.
3. Empathize with your customers
The key to customer success is letting the customers know that you understand how they’re feeling. Customers contact support for a wide range of problems. They can be as small as a typo in a help document or as big as a defective product that resulted in a poor user experience. Your customer may have had a rough day due to no direct fault of yours, but they’re likely to vent their frustration and anger on the support reps they connect with.
At that point, you must stay calm, put yourself in the customer’s shoes, listen to their problems patiently, and only speak when they are done and expect a response. Here’s an incident where an agent had to respond to someone who had reported a delay in their order.
Some sample phrases that signify empathy would be:
- “I would be just as frustrated if I were in your position.”
- “As a business, we understand how frustrating this issue would be.”
- “I’m deeply sorry for keeping you waiting for so long.”
Your customers will appreciate and respect how calmly you handle the conversation. This will result in positive feedback and encourage customer loyalty.
4. Suggest an alternative
No matter how big or small the issue is, you must acknowledge the inconvenience caused and help customers with an alternative while the original issue is being fixed. Imagine a transaction issue around an item they returned, such as a failed payment gateway that doesn’t allow you to transfer the full refund back to their account. In such cases, you may apologize for the inconvenience and ask them to wait for the issue to get fixed while offering a discount code for their next purchase, or you may offer them a redeemable coupon for the same amount.
Here’s an apology email from an airline offering alternatives to the customer because of a revised flight schedule.
Some common phrases you can use to draft your apology email are:
- “I am extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused. We are facing some lag in the payment process. You may expect the refund to reflect in 5-7 business days.”
- “I understand how frustrating this may be. Should I offer a coupon of the same amount for you to redeem on your next purchase?”
- “This is unacceptable, and we realize we have let you down. We value your relationship with us. While we work on fixing our payment gateway, I would like to share an exclusive discount code for your next purchase.”
A sincere apology can help appease an angry customer and reassure them that you value their relationship and are willing to go the extra mile to fix the issue. This helps you win your customer’s trust, reducing churn and improving customer satisfaction.
5. Avoid using apology templates
There’s a tendency to reuse existing customer service apology templates to save time in typing out personalized responses. This can sometimes backfire because when a customer is visibly frustrated with your product/service, they expect some amount of personalized care or attention to detail. Receiving clichéd replies that do not answer or address their question directly adds to the negative experience and causes churn.
Here’s an example of a personalized apology email crafted for someone who had reported a delay in receiving their luggage.
Here are some replies that clichéd templates offer for mass apology emails. Refrain from using these for your apology emails.
- “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
- “Apologies for the trouble. Our team is looking into it.”
- “Sorry for the bad experience. Call this number to talk to a support agent.”
You may get overwhelmed with multiple queries, but you can manage your workload and incoming queries using a complaint management software to reassure customers. This enables you to focus on customers and craft an apology that effectively answers the customer’s question and sets the right expectations.
6. Set the right expectations
It’s natural for customers to expect quick resolutions to their problems, which can lead to specific questions on ETAs. Here’s how you can handle such questions smartly while placing the customers’ interests first.
For starters, always specify a time frame or set expectations on when the customers can expect a resolution. But make sure you don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Here’s an example of how an agent calmly handled a customer who had been charged twice for an order.
Here are additional tips that may set you up for success.
- If the resolution is dependent on input from other teams, find out how long it’ll take to fix a particular issue and promise an ETA to the customer accordingly.
- If an issue cannot be resolved soon, make this clear to the customer. You can share a likely range of dates on when the problem would be resolved.
In case of a feature request or something that is not on your product roadmap, be honest with customers about the functionality supported. If you have a workaround that can support their workflow, ask the customer to give it a shot.
7. Follow up with your customers
You have handled an angry customer. You’ve fixed their problem, apologized for the inconvenience, and managed to retain them. But the cycle does not end there. Continue to analyze with your team what went wrong in the first place, so you can minimize the probability of such issues. Also, don’t forget to check in with your customer to see if they are happy with the resolution provided.
Here are some tips about what you can do to follow up with your customer.
- Thank them for their valued support and continued trust in your brand.
- Ask them for customer feedback. This helps you check if they are happy with the solution provided or need help with other issues.
- Thank them for their feedback and ask if they would like to be part of beta tests when you work on new features.
This way, you can turn a bad customer experience into a loyal product user. Here’s an example of a follow-up after resolving an issue.
Acknowledge, empathize, and apologize
A business is bound to make mistakes, but how you deal with hiccups in customer service is what sets your business apart. Here’s all that you need to remember.
- Acknowledge the impact of the problem on the customer
- Suggest a workaround for the customer to use in the meantime
- Express urgency in getting the problem resolved
- Specify an ETA on when the customer can expect a solution
We hope these tips help you craft good apology emails and win over customers whenever something goes wrong. What are the things that you do differently? Let us know your experiences and stories in the comments below!